Qantas will end Boeing 747-400/400ER flights to the United States mainland in December 2019 when it switches the Sydney-San Francisco route to the 787-9 Dreamliner.
Currently, the airline serves San Francisco six times a week with 747-400/400ER equipment from its Sydney hub, according to schedules on the Qantas website.
However, Qantas announced on Tuesday the 747 would be replaced by a daily 787-9 service on the QF73/74 rotation from December 4 2019.
The change of gauge represented a 24 per cent reduction in available seats per week on the route – 2,184 one-way seats per week with the 747 versus 1,652 one-way seats per week with the 787-9 – given the next-generation 787-9 had 128 fewer seats than the evergreen 747.
The bulk of Qantas’s 747-400/400ER fleet have 364 seats in a three-class layout (58 in business, 36 in premium economy and 270 in economy). Meanwhile, Qantas’s 787-9 had 236 seats (42 in business, 28 in premium economy and 166 in economy).
Qantas international acting chief executive Naren Kumar said the 787-9 was the “most comfortable aircraft” in the fleet given its had the airline’s latest cabin products and features designed to reduce the impact of jetlag.
“Customer feedback on the cabin environment, from the seats to the anti-jetlag measures, continues to exceed our expectations,” Kumar said in a statement.
The Qantas fleet of eight 787-9s currently serve the following international routes – Brisbane-Hong Kong, Brisbane-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-New York JFK, Melbourne-Hong Kong, Melbourne-Los Angeles, Melbourne-Perth-London Heathrow, Melbourne-San Francisco and Sydney-Hong Kong.
The 787-9 fleet will increase to 14 with the arrival of six more 787-9s due between October 2019 and the end of 2020.
The additional Dreamliners will enable Qantas to retire its 747 fleet by the end of 2020, when the airline celebrates its centenary.
Currently, Qantas has eight 747s left in service, comprising six GE-powered 747-438ERs (VH-OEE thru OEJ) delivered between 2002 and 2003, a single GE-powered 747-48E (VH‑OEB, built for Asiana in 1993 and acquired by Qantas in 1998) and one Rolls-Royce-powered 747-438s (VH-OJU) delivered in the 1999-2000 timeframe.
Qantas announced in May 2018 all 747s would be retired by the time the airline celebrated its centenary in 2020.
The most recent 747 withdrawal was in February 2019, when Qantas sent VH-OJS to the Mojave Desert after operating its last commercial flight from Sydney to San Francisco.
While Qantas will end 747 passenger flights between Australia and the US mainland from December 2019, the airline does use the type on the Sydney-Honolulu route, as well as a seasonal Sydney-Vancouver service that has been flown in recent years.